ARS POETICA WITH BREAST PUMP
I stay late at work for time
to write, (burnt coffee, slick
keyboard on a formica desk,
and the clutch/sigh of a hands-free
double electric pump)
a poem about the luminous
happiness that blindsided me in our
firstborn's mid-infancy. Now his babyhood
is gone, evaporated with our second
son's arrival. Today I saw him tread
carefully, intentionally, on his brother's
hand , then slip away before the crying.
Tonight I'll read the older
boy a boardbook as the baby roots after
the milk I've just siphoned
for the sitter. He'll feed hard, yank
at the nipple, unsatisfied,
cry to nurse again within the hour.
meaningmeaningmeaning the pump sighs.
Isn't that what I've stayed
to search for?—dragging reluctant
words into sentences, turning my back
to the children, to my husband,
already home before the open fridge,
baby in one arm, toddler methodically
opening and slamming the cupboard doors.
How does one fully inhabit one's life?
The present shatters, scatters, stubbornly
out of reach, like the children's faces—
half-formed, they flicker with intimations
of past and future selves that I can't
push through to see them as they are.
How do these words stacked in precarious
columns at once make their subject both
more real and also unreal?
The spurting milk slows and I have to pause
to visualize the baby: his scent, his cry,
his searching mouth with its peaked blister,
his fist twisting my shirt . . . . until again the milk
lets down. Slowly the twin bottles fill
with thin, sweet milk and a delicate layer of cream.
Emily Tuszynska lives in Virginia, just outside Washington DC. Her poems have appeared in a number of journals, including Crab Orchard Review, Natural Bridge, Poet Lore, and Rhino. Her work has received three Pushcart nominations, an Earle Birney prize, and a Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg prize, and has been supported by fellowships from Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the Vermont Studio Center.